We need more Open-World Giant-Slaying Action RPGs like Horizon Zero Dawn
There is always something magnificently attractive about giant-slaying action RPGs with its immersive environment and action-packed gameplay that keeps the every title under the genre something worth looking forward to. Nothing beats the feeling of the thrill experienced in fighting gigantic monsters and finding a way to beat them in battle. This experience sets apart the giant-slaying genre from other action RPGs with its real-time puzzle-like combat and gameplay, yet not all titles under this genre become a certified hit or offer a high level of replay value despite the rich and unique gameplay the genre offers. In this article, I’ll be discussing why open-world action RPGs deserves the attention of every gamer seeking an immersive and challenging experience as well as the standards set by the PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn to the open-world giant-slaying genre.
Open-world RPGs vs Instance-based Gameplay
Open-world, giant-slaying RPGs offer a higher replay value than instanced gameplay. I do not particularly hate on titles such as Monster Hunter World which gets its high replay value from its multiplayer option; rather, I think that single player games thrive on the dynamic and realistic atmosphere it offers. Its selling point is simple: fluid and challenging gameplay mechanics featuring battles with formidable monsters in a compelling environment, or as others would say: a game that is good enough to cause a suspension of disbelief. While instanced gameplay isn’t particularly bad for the immersion, its repetitive nature can sometimes cause the feeling of burnout which is reminiscent of some MMORPGs which easily lose its player base due to the tedious grind instance-based gameplay causes to players.
An open-world RPG gives the freedom of experiencing an adventure without any limitations, except for some subtly-guided story progression. Players need to have games that provide them the liberty to choose how they want to play, especially for single-player games which are all about the experience it brings to players. A theme-park approach to the genre only limits the full potential of an epic battle with gigantic monsters in an action RPG.
Horizon is all about the Hunt
Horizon isn’t a let-down for all its hype and glory as an open-world, giant-slaying RPG. True to its genre, the title offers a hunt or be hunted scenario against corrupted mechanical creatures that come in varying shapes and sizes with their own purpose in the game’s ecosystem. With all that the game offers, let us analyse how the PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn managed to create a well-packaged game that ties up the game’s mechanics with its lore and ecosystem to be able to build a state-of-the-art experience under the open-world giant-slaying action RPG genre.
First off, let’s talk about the mechanics of the game. Its gameplay is highly similar to Far Cry Primal with the ability to mount on the beasts, the continuous hunt for materials, and the crafting system being an integral part of the gameplay; however, Horizon does add the element of fighting gigantic mechanical creatures and hacking/overriding them in order to utilize their technology. For example, Tallnecks are needed in order to discover regions covered by fog while Striders, Broadheads, and Chargers are mountable creatures once hacked.
Second, the non-linear approach to battle brings forth the feeling of a true hunt. Players have the option of setting up traps, identifying enemy weak points, and overriding other mobs to control them in battle. With the fights being extremely challenging at times, the battle mechanics offered by the game tests how clever and creative players can get during the heat of the battle. The strategic depth of combat imitates the spirit of the hunt and adds value to the whole adventure by allowing the players to come up with different ways of hunting these mechanical beasts.
Third, while the HP mechanic can be forgiving most of the time, the threat of dying in just a few consecutive hits against even the smaller creatures makes every moment of Horizon as an action RPG become as realistic as possible. Smaller creatures such as Watchers and Striders are often seen in herds which make hunting them difficult if not dangerous. There would of course be the large creatures such as Rockbreakers, Stormbirds, and Thunderjaws that can knock the players off into their utter demise within a single powerful hit. In an instant, the hunter can easily become the hunted if preparations were not made.
Horizon is an adventure filled with lore and mysteries to uncover
Apart from Horizon’s fluid gameplay mechanics, the game also offers a universe filled with breath-taking views that are unhindered by loading screens and instance dungeons. The vast lands hiding the mysteries of the mechanical creatures running rampant as well as the secrets of the remaining tribes compel the players to explore and uncover the mysteries. For those that do seek challenges, there are hunting grounds where special trials occur. Horizon is an action RPG that makes the time spent travelling the 31st century post-apocalyptic setting worth every moment of gameplay.
Beyond this, the game’s amazing ecosystem is another thing worth marvelling at. Each creature is designed not only to become unique in appearance but to also serve a purpose in the whole ecosystem. From gatherers to communication devices, each creature was given sufficient detail and attention in order to integrate them to the story. Hence, no mob becomes a creature that is easily neglected since each one is tied to the ecosystem and the lore of the whole story.
The future of the open-world giant-slaying action RPG genre
The open-world giant-slaying action RPG genre has much ahead of it in the future with the standards set by Horizon not only in the improvements it has made in terms of gameplay but also the level of detail and lore it has built which led to the creation of a complete universe built with its own ecosystem. The challenge has been set for other titles that wish to enter the genre. What was once a genre that relied heavily on its unique gameplay has now reached greater heights through the strategic integration of lore within its gameplay. Perhaps other developers will follow suit with the success of this PS4 exclusive, but as far as I am concerned I believe that we all deserve more ground-breaking adventures such as Horizon Zero Dawn.